by | Jun 23, 2012 | electric, Woodstock | 21 comments

A year ago I showed readers my new Woodstock Electrite, which I thought I couldn’t get to work.

It turned out that even though the motor says DC, it is a universal motor. When I plugged it into AC power with a good new cord, the typewriter sprang to life! Then I promptly busted it. (Expert tip: do not stick your finger in front of the moving typebars of an Electrite. Not only will it hurt your finger, but you can break the teeth on a crucial gear.)

Recently I bought a replacement motor, taken from an Electrite that failed to sell on eBay. It was different: various features had been changed on this newer motor, generally for the better. This motor came sans wiring. I’ll spare you the details, but I ended up connecting the electric heart of the old motor to the gear assembly of the new one, lubricated with new grease. Now the typewriter can type again. In fact, it types powerfully enough to punch holes in the paper. It would make 10 copies if you needed them.

For Typewriter Day, I’d like to show you this contraption in action.


  1. Anonymous

    Oh, man, that is too cool, Richard! It's almost steampunk-ish, what with the vintage manual machinery and an electric motor. How loud is that in person? From where I sit, it sounds like high-power cables on a misty morning.

  2. Richard P

    Answer: pretty darn loud. I don't know how to quiet it down — there may be a way. Interestingly, every keystroke slows down the motor and quiets it down, briefly. I am an ignoramus about electricity, but I think the system is pretty primitive.

  3. Ton S.

    T-Day greetings, RIchard!
    Very intriguing machine, never encountered one before. Is there a reason why it's got so much power? Was it really intended to create lots of carbon copies?

  4. Richard P

    The switch on the left that corresponds to the color switch on the right supposedly lets you change from low to high power — but I don't notice any difference. (It's set to low in the video.) There is also a sliding device on the bottom, in back, which I thought might regulate the power, but when I changed it to any position other than its original one, the motor wouldn't run at all.

    Clearly this was meant as an office typewriter, and since it was pretty expensive, it would have been used in a larger office. All correspondence in such an office would probably be carbon-copied, so you'd be making at least one copy of every document. That does take some extra effort, and I can see how a secretary might be grateful for electrified typebars and keys that just need to be depressed a quarter inch.

    The shift and carriage return are still manual, though.

  5. maschinengeschrieben

    Big electric standards are impressive bits of machinery. Is the backspace automatic?

  6. Richard P

    No — everything is muscle-driven except the typebars.

  7. L Casey

    It's amazing that the giant, fist sized motor on the side of that JUST powers the typebars. Truly an awesome typewriter, one that I have heard a lot about but have never seen in action before. I have heard it called 'the only Woodstock collectors are interested in', and this must be somewhat true, as I find myself interested in it right now!
    Awesome demonstration, and a happy Typewriter Day to you, Richard.

  8. Bill M

    I've never seen an electric that old. Nice, but electric.

  9. Dwayne F.

    That is a really interesting machine. Is it as loud as a coffee bean grinder? Either way, I'm glad you figured out how to combine the two machines and make one fuctional.

  10. Miguel Chávez

    Happy T-day! And what an interesting contraption! what year is that machine from?

  11. Richard P

    No, only about half as loud as a coffee grinder!

  12. Richard P

    I don't have serial number records for Electrites, but roughly 1925.

  13. Miguel Chávez

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that there was an electrically-powered Remington 12; would they be contemporaries? Ever seen one of those?

  14. Richard P

    Yes, they were contemporaries, but only 2500 of the Remington Electric machines were made. I have never seen one in person. They use the superior rubber-covered roller method, later used by IBM and most electric typewriters; the Electrite uses a fluted metal shaft. In both cases, the roller or the shaft spins continuously, catching a typebar when you depress a key.

    Here is a good article by Darryl Rehr about the Remington Electric.

  15. Miguel Chávez

    I see, very interesting. That design (the fluted metal shaft) is the same as in the Smith-Corona electrics I've used. The technician that fixed my IBM Executive told me that the power roller was the Achiles' heel of that machine, because the rubber tended to wear and then it wouldn't catch the typebars. Apparently the fluted metal shaft design was more durable.

  16. Richard P

    Well, that makes sense. Maybe my layman's impression of which system is "superior" is wrong! In any case it is not based on actual technical experience. Thanks.

  17. Anonymous

    Good for you!! A wonderfull machine i love it!!! Wow!

  18. Unknown

    Years ago I tried to get an IBM Model C to work and the thing was in perfect condition…except the rubber roller. (Guess what still doesn't work) I'd call it a weakness *today* though it may have been advantageous years ago.

  19. John

    Nick, you try this old trick, hold a file against the power roll whilst it is running and remove a little of the surface. It may bring it back to life.

  20. Unknown

    I wonder if the DC motor is running faster than spec.? Perhaps a voltage controller or light dimmer could slow it down and maybe make it easier on the paper?

  21. Richard P

    Could be. But I think I'm going to let it enjoy its retirement on my shelf!


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